YA Highway

I Get By With A Little Help

by sarahenni on March 31, 2014

It’s been a bit of a stressful time lately, with life and with writing. I’ve been trying to get some momentum behind drafting a new book (well… a new version of an old book, if you want to get particular), and the best way to do that is to spend some time with fellow writers. Thankfully a few confluent events brought a bunch of YA Highway ladies together in SoCal.

Our lovely San Diego host Kirsten Hubbard, and the delightfully pale Kate Hart

First thing? The Divergent movie, of course!

Debra Driza, Amy Lukavics, Stephanie Kuehn, Kate Hart, Yours Truly, Kirsten Hubbard, Sumayyah Daud at the movie theater’s bar avoiding actual teenagers until showtime.

I think it’s okay to admit now that I was super nervous for the movie. There was a lot of (well-deserved) hype! But I can honestly say the movie did right by my girl Veronica — and Insurgent already got the green light!

The settings were amazing, and Shailene rocked (the scene with her mom at the end? Tears). And, Theo James? Mmmm Hmmm. There was just a *teensy* bit of pressure on the guy (realizing a fandom’s perfect Four? Good luck!), but he completely nailed it. Also, his face.

Bye bye Pamuk, hellooooo Four.

Did you catch Veronica’s cameo in the movie? Neck tats! In a theater full of girls gasping and sighing over Theo (I managed to keep my fangirling [mostly] internal on that count), our row screamed in unison when she burst onto the screen. Such a badass!! So freaking proud of Veronica this weekend it hurts.

After loving the movie and toasting to Divergent’s success, we navigated north to L.A. to see the always gorgeous Tahereh Mafi, who was celebrating her recent marriage to fellow YA all-star Ransom Riggs!


Me, Kate, beautiful bride Tahereh, and Sumayyah!

I don’t think anyone needs me to tell them that Tahereh sweats style and breathes grace, so of course an event planned by she and Ransom was completely gorgeous, with personal touches that made the night totally unforgettable. And okay, I totally embarrassed myself with how hard I was crying, but all I have to say is: Two NYT best-selling writers crafting their own wedding vows? If you didn’t cry, you were basically the Terminator. I stand by my creys of joy. By the end of the night, everyone in the place was ready to marry either or both of those crazy cute kids.

Wedding Gif 4

Also, there was cake.

We stuck around the city of angels for another night to see The National perform at the Shrine Auditorium — an incredible venue to see a band that is ever-present in my writing playlists. Added bonus: they were debuting a documentary about the band, “Mistaken for Strangers,”  which was totally fantastic. The band managed to make a 5,000+ capacity theater feel intimate, and also, lasers.


Bloodbuzz Ohio

Live music is one of those things that never fails to energize me. Musicians get to connect to their audience in a one-on-one way that authors can only dream of, but being swept up in a 5,000-person singalong to “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” is the kind of transcendent moment that keeps me writing.

In fact, it’s a good thing I’m not a musician, because I’d just cry my way through that, too. Turns out I’m a big softie.

Anyway, the point is: There is just nothing that recharges the creative batteries like seeing fellow writers and kindred spirits, and remembering collectively what human experiences keep us plugging away at our laptops. It was a kind of alternative writing retreat; not a single word was written, but progress was made nonetheless.

What about you?? Have you been hanging with other writers lately? Seen or done something that reminds you why you keep writing? I wanna know!


Retreat! (A How To)

by sarahenni on August 6, 2012

I’ve been waiting all year for late July, because it meant a trip to Colorado with many other YA Highway members for a writing retreat! Last week was really special, because I got to see some of my favorite girls in the world AND I managed to add about 10,000 good words to my WiP. We had a great time, and managed to be crazy productive, so I thought I’d share how we set up the retreat, and what we did there to keep ourselves motivated, in case you are planning or attending a retreat in the near future (which I totally recommend).

The Supplies

Be sure to bring:

  • Chargers for everything electronic
  • The writer’s uniform (yoga pants, comfy T-shirts)
  • A plan for who will cook what meals, on what days (doesn’t have to be a rigid schedule, just something to get an idea of what grocery shopping should be done and what dietary restrictions might come into play with your group)
  • Headphones
  • Any books you want to share

The Space

We used VRBO.com to find a fantastic cabin in Colorado, a central location for everyone. We organized everyone’s arrival and departure times by using a shared Google Doc, and that way we only had to rent one car for the week. (Rental cars are expensive, yo.)

We planned it from Friday to Wednesday to take advantage of a weekend, but definitely ate into some vacation time. It was well worth it, though, because at least one full day was spent catching up with one another, and admiring the truly bizarre lodge art that filled our rental space. Evidence:

I took to calling him “The Statesman.”

DISCO DUCK (.gif pending)

The Writing

The first morning, after we made ourselves breakfast with lots and lots of coffee, we all gathered around to write. To make sure we resisted the urge to chat, we set a timer for dedicated writing time. Most of the time we set aside hour-long chunks. (I downloaded Howler Timer for my Mac, which makes [as you might've guessed] a wolf howling sound instead of a buzzer. I took much enjoyment from it and recommend it highly.)

Moose hat optional, but encouraged.

We took breaks for lunch, but most of the late morning and afternoon was spent working individually. Eventually we spread all over the house, with people writing anywhere they felt inspired.

The Goofing Off

Toward the end of the day, most of us were a little creatively spent. We gathered around to make dinner, and to unwind for the day and chat. At times, chatting long into the night… or early morning1. Talking, drawing, getting silly, playing the Twilight Commentary Drinking Game2—all of these things recharged our creative batteries, and were just basically a blast.

Photo taken by Kate Hart

The Exploring

It can be tempting to stay inside like, the entire time. Especially when the words are flowing. But if you’ve gone to a destination retreat, you’re missing out on a big part of the reason you traveled somewhere outside your living room. I don’t regret the handful of hours spent exploring the small town nearby, hiking, or just sitting on the porch appreciating the wonderful view. Evidence:

Photo taken by Kate Hart.

So that’s my advice! But what about you?? Have you done a writer’s retreat before? Anything I missed? Anyplace in particular you’d recommend to reach maximum word count? Are you planning on going to a retreat anytime in the future? Do you have a moose hat to bring??

  1. Note: staying up until 5:30 a.m. chatting with a friend as awesome as Kate Hart is worth any lost productivity the next day.
  2. With modifications because good lord people, we’re not indestructible


How To BEA

by sarahenni on June 12, 2012

I have loved reading everyone’s BookExpo America breakdown posts this week, all the more because, giant bunch of introverts that we are, the recap posts are happening after everyone has had a long weekend (of reading ARCs) to recover.

And I am no different! Now that I’ve had time to gather my thoughts, I thought I would put together a handy list of To Dos for anyone considering a future jaunt to BEA in all its madhouse glory.

Step 1: Convene a kickass war counsel.

From Left: Lindsey Roth Culli, Sara McClung, Cristin Terrill, Claire Legrand, Diana Fox, Frankie Diane Mallis, Kelsey Dixon, Jessica Sheehan

Last year (my first BEA trip) I read literary agent Suzie Townsend‘s swag sweep blog post with a not-insubstantial amount of incredulity. “Come on,” I thought to myself, naively. “It can’t be that intense!” Oh ho, that was a mistake. I left last year’s BEA with a grand total of two (2) ARCs. This year I was determined to make the trip more worthwhile. And I was fortunate enough to fall in with this group of awesome ladies who were ready to conquer the expo floor. There were diagrams. There was a route. I was on the vanguard (and somehow managed to lose the pack at the first stop) but made it out with at least 10 of the books I’d been most excited about in as many minutes.

Step 2: Convince yourself crowds are fun and sweating is a natural and pleasant thing, also feet are supposed to be in constant pain.

Deny to survive. DENY.

Step 3: Use the conference to go outside your comfort zone.

TIM GUNN! Also me, Kara Taylor, Lindsey Roth Culli, Sasha K

not trying to be artsy my pic just won't rotate

When I was researching what books I was most interested in from BEA, most of my list included YA titles. But I made sure to read the Publisher’s Weekly reviews of what adult and Middle Grade books were going to be highly sought after, too. I also scoured the BEA author signings listings, looking for anything that caught my eye. Being open to non-YA books, authors, and events led me to some of the best parts of my experience: Meeting Tim Gunn (who is every bit as charming and kind as you hope he is), and grabbing the ARC for Justin Cronin’s The Twelve, a book I’ve been having dreams nightmares about for like two years now.

Step 4: Make time to meet with internet friends IRL

YA Highway girls, together at last! From left: Phoebe North, me, Veronica Roth, Kody Keplinger

The YA Highway girls are in pretty constant communication, but no number of smiley emoticons compare to meeting up for actual conversation. Make time to meet people, and take it outside Javits if at all possible. Oh and also, err on the side of introducing yourself. There will come a day when BEA will print everyone’s Twitter handle and avatar on the name tags, but until then explaining who you are (even if you’ve met someone before!) can only help ease awkwardness.

Step 5: Go to dinner with a mom

Frankie and Sara admire the genius artwork

I cannot stress how prepared Lindsey Roth Culli was for BEA. Girl brought snacks for the car ride up, an inflatable pool raft so Kara Taylor didn’t have to sleep on the floor, and she was even able to bust out her own set of crayons at our restaurant. I am only showing pictures from the side of the table that was able to keep things clean with their drawings.

Related: Always order interesting-sounding margaritas. They might be hot as a jalapeno lollipop on the Fourth of July, but they will also be endlessly entertaining. See below.

Lindsey and Kara took their flaming hot margaritas as a personal challenge, and persevered!

Step 6: Unpack your stash

If you’re like me, you will unpack your BEA books and file them under Bookshelf > To Be Read > YA Section > Alphabetical in Order of Release Date.

Step 7: Enjoy your stash.

Entertainment for months! In this way, BEA never really ends.

What about you? Did you go to BEA? How was it! Did we see each other! If not, WHY NOT! Is anyone going to ALA? Any tips for how to handle it out there?



A Valentine Post

by sarahenni on February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m posting as part of YA Highway’s Blog Circus Lovefest, and I couldn’t decide on just one object of affection to send a Valentine’s Card to. So I gathered a few of my favorite characters, and scoured Etsy for cards that would perfectly capture my love. It was a tough job but … okay, fine, it was totally fun. I had a blast finding the cards, and casting the characters—so here they are, my Valentines!


I’d send the dreamily odd Cricket Bell (from Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door and cast here as Nicholas Hoult) this fun, funky card—appropriately made in San Francisco! The polar opposite of moody, broody rocker Max, Cricket Bell was smart and a bit silly. But his loyalty and genuine nature made him one of my absolute favorite YA boys… next to Etienne, of course!

Warner from Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me is a lot of things: controlling, manipulative, demanding, ruthless… a touch psycho? But as the book goes on it’s clear there’s a whole lot more to Warner than meets the eye. The promise of a heart-wrenching backstory and surprising plot twist or two is enough to get me hooked for Unravel Me, and to keep me on Team Mysterious and Tortured. But you can’t just give a man like that a box of candy hearts, so Warner (played here, per the author’s suggestion, by an extraordinarily smoldering fox in a tux whose name I don’t even care to know because it’d ruin the mystique) would get this simple card with a complicated message by Fifi Du Vie.

Oh hi, Love Interest in the forthcoming Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. I don’t know you. Not even your name—seriously, there’s no hint of anything on Goodreads even. But I’m prepared, nay, predetermined to fall madly, wildly, foolishly in love with you. And every minute we are apart? Every day that the elusive ARC of Bitterblue passes hands and I remain clueless about each of its 500+ pages? I miss you more. Happy freaking Valentine’s Day, mystery dude.

Oh, Gale. Pretty, helpless, moping-in-a-meadow Gale. Get back in the coal mines, buddy—Peeta got your girl by painting himself into dirt. I know,  it sucks. But take the advice of this apt, and awesome, print (also by Fifi Du Vie) and don’t get too bogged down with, you know. Thoughts.

I was also dying to give away this Valentine to a fictional studmuffin:

But I couldn’t think of just the right guy (or gal!). Who would you send it to?

For other Valentine’s awesomeness, check out the other Blog Lovefest posts, and rock out to my collection of non-romantic Valentine’s Dance Break songs!